$71m Australian cannery proposal moves to financing stage

Lockyer Valley Fruit & Vegetable Processing Company plans to establish a $71m fruit and vegetable cannery operation just west of Brisbane.

Plans for the cannery at Grantham, between Brisbane and Toowoomba have moved to detailed financing negotiations, with the final mix of investor equity and bank debt for the A$71 million project expected to be determined by mid-year.

The agricultural footprint around the proposed 12 hectare industrial site at Grantham, is rated as the seventh highest yielding crop land in the world – the only such Top 10 rating in Australia – as it can produce two crops per year and therefore optimise throughputs on the canning lines by eliminating seasonal downtimes.

Plans for the new cannery include processing vegetables primarily from the Lockyer Valley but also tropical fruits and vegetables from throughout Queensland and even from wider afield.

Chief executive, Mr Colin Dorber, said today the company was near the end of its financing negotiations to inject upwards of $2.5 million of seed capital into the venture in coming days.

These additional funds would allow the completion by the end of June of already well advanced final feasibility studies for investment decision makers for the cannery.

Its initial production focus will be as the only Australian-based beetroot cannery in addition to pineapple and tomato runs, and later corn, replacing with a consumer-backed domestic product, millions of cans of currently imported vegetable and fruit product.

The project has been buoyed by a decision this week by the Lockyer Valley Regional Council to assist with guarantor status for up to A$1 million underwriting of the seed capital requirements and assistance to obtain further State/Federal government input.

Dorber said Lockyer Valley Fruit & Vegetable Processing had now mandated a senior corporate advisory firm and mainstream banking group to progress both an Information Memorandum for investors for release at the end of June and to settle the determination by then, of a recommended equity-debt ratio to totally fund the cannery.

The Company anticipates an equity raising of around A$50 million.

“The Information Memorandum will include all data from our completed feasibility studies; Business Case; Risk Analysis, and Strategic Plan plus inputs by the corporate advisors as to the compelling business case now being applied to this project after four years of rigorous studies, negotiations with growers, shippers and retail food chains, particularly the large supermarket players,” Dorber said.

“As the financing negotiations will be in a commercial-in-confidence environment, we do not anticipate making further public statements about the project until the formal release of the Information Memorandum.”

First production is slated for July 2017 from the proposed 23,500 square metre cannery.

Dorber said there was currently strong investor interest in the Australian agribusiness sector, in particular, opportunities to supply the domestic market with differentiated Australian grown consumer products and to develop growing new and high value export markets.


Hepatitis contamination prompts calls for stricter labelling

Consumer watchdog, Choice, has called on the Federal Government to take action on country of origin food labelling following the national recall of frozen mixed berries.

The recall comes in the wake of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry’s recommendations in October last year that food country of origin labelling needs to change.

“Unfortunately for consumers the Committee missed an opportunity to simplify the system and this latest issue illustrates the challenge we have in trying to make informed decisions about where our food comes from,” says Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“One of the products in the latest recall, Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries, is listed on the Coles website as being ‘Packed in Australia using imported fruit’.  This claim is totally meaningless when it comes to the country of origin of the fruit inside the pack.”

“Consumers shouldn’t have to use country of origin labelling as a proxy for food safety, we should be able to purchase food on sale in our supermarkets knowing it’s safe to eat regardless of its origin.”

“Australians should be able to make informed choices about the food they eat. We are renewing our call for simplification of country-of-origin labelling. It’s time to give consumers the information they want, remove the information they don’t, and test the way we label our food to make sure it’s meaningful.”

“We strongly urge the Federal Government to take action on country of origin labelling and end the confusion for consumers when they enter the supermarket.”

Choice has called for:

  • ‘Product of Australia’ or “Australian produce” = significant ingredients and virtually all processing to be from the country claimed
  • ‘Manufactured in Australia’ = Relating solely to manufacturing
  • ‘Packaged in Australia’ = Relates solely to manufacturing
  • Consumer testing of any changes to ensure they are meaningful

In response to the recall, The Australian Made Campaign has issued a warning to check country-of-origin labelling.

“This issue exemplifies the differences in health and safety standards for the production of food around the world,” Australian Made Chief Executive, Ian Harrison said.

“Australia's clean, green environment helps produce exceptionally high quality food, but moreover, our strict regulatory framework ensures Australian-grown produce is also safe to eat, and we encourage consumers to consider this factor when choosing what to buy.”

The Australian Made Campaign is the not-for-profit organisation that administers and promotes Australia's registered country-of-origin certification trade mark, the Australian Made, Australian Grown kangaroo logo.

“Imported food products which are packed in Australia – as was the case in this instance – do not qualify to use the symbol.”


Hepatitis contamination likely due to poor hygiene

The contamination of two Patties frozen berry brands with hepatitis A has been traced back China, where the berries were grown.

According to ABC News, poor hygiene amongst Chinese workers as well as potentially contaminated water supplies in China are thought to be the likely causes of an outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia linked to frozen berries.

Five cases of hepatitis A linked to the product are confirmed in New South Wales and Victoria, prompting a national.

Patties Foods initially advised consumers not to eat Nanna’s Mixed Berries on Friday, announcing the recall on Saturday and extending it to the Gourmet Mixed brand on Sunday.

The national consumer recall is for:

  • Nanna’s Mixed Berries 1kg, All Batches up to and including Best Before Date 22/11/16
  • Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 300g, All Batches up to and including Best Before Date 10/12/17 
  • Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries 500g, All Batches up to and including Best Before Date 06/10/17

The berries came from China and Chile and were distributed by Patties Foods, which is based in Bairnsdale, east Victoria.

Patties Foods, the company who distributed the berries, said it was likely to cut ties with its unnamed Chinese supplier.

Dr Finn Romanes from Victoria's Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the contamination had been traced back to China.

"The particular risk that we've identified here is that a country that has endemic hepatitis A, that is China, has been involved with packing these berries, sourced from both Chile and China," Dr Romanes said.

The recall follows advice from the Victorian Health Department of potential Hepatitis A contamination and an investigation is continuing with state and national health authorities.

Patties has increased staff and extended the opening hours of its consumer hotline to between 7am and 9pm, until further notice.

Patties Foods MD & CEO, Steven Chaur, said “while our quality control testing to date has not revealed any concerns with the food safety of either product, further detailed testing is being done and the recall is an important step to ensure public safety and confidence.

“We have decided that all our frozen Mixed Berries should be recalled until such time as we receive the results of further laboratory tests,” Chaur said.

Grocery customers have been advised to remove the product from sale, and Consumer Recall advertising is being conducted in national daily newspapers. Patties Foods advises consumers not to eat the product, and return packs to the place of purchase for a full cash refund.

All other Nanna’s, Creative Gourmet and Patties Foods products remain unaffected by this recall.

Mark Smith, Patties chairman said in a statement it is too early at this stage to ascertain whether the product recalls will have any financial impact on the company and if so, whether that impact will be material. This aspect is also being monitored and the market will be informed promptly and without delay if there are any material developments.  


Energy Efficient Loans accelerate $20m in projects

Australian businesses are using Commonwealth Bank and Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) finance to accelerate $20 million in energy productivity boosting projects.

The Energy Efficient Loan program, a $100 million initiative of the CEFC and Commonwealth Bank, is financing technologies that reduce energy costs and assist Australian businesses to consolidate their market position.

One of the most recent Energy Efficient Loan participants is Goulburn Valley-based fruit supplier Radevski Coolstores.

Radevski Coolstores will boost its operations and cut its overall energy costs by a quarter, by installing solar PV and a state-of-the-art fruit grader financed through Commonwealth Bank and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) Energy Efficient Loan (EEL) product.

CEFC CEO Oliver Yates said he was pleased Goulburn Valley-based Radevski Coolstores was building on savings already gained through a refrigeration upgrade in 2013 to make further investment in efficient, cleaner energy upgrades which would significantly increase efficiency and lower the firm’s carbon footprint.

"It is good to see forward-looking businesses like Radevski deploying Commonwealth Bank and CEFC Energy Efficient Loan finance to help retain their competitive position. The program is working with businesses to assist them "unpack" the value of investment in new energy efficient equipment, to realise the full potential of improved productivity and cuts to energy and operational costs, water use and maintenance,” he said.

General Manager Peter Radevski said the new equipment would increase the energy productivity and competitiveness of Radevski Coolstores while accelerating them towards a long-term industry goal to reduce their carbon footprint.

“This will help us achieve a better way to grade, store and package our fruit and will help us remain at the forefront of technology and ensure our long-term viability in what is a competitive market,” he said.

The new up to 100 KW solar PV system will provide around 12 per cent of energy needs and with the addition of the new grader, Radevski Coolstores is expected to reduce its overall energy bill by around 25 per cent. Savings are expected through reduced energy use, reduced reliance on town water, the ability to store fruit at a slightly higher temperature and reduced packaging needs.

The family’s energy efficiency drive extends past the Energy Efficient Loan financed projects to include LED lighting in the new fruit grader shed and the installation of a variable speed drive at one of the irrigation pump sites which will deliver pump energy savings of around 25 per cent. This is in addition to the new ammonia-based refrigeration system already financed through the Energy Efficient Loan in 2013 which has reduced by about one quarter the refrigeration energy use and carbon emissions for the business’s 16 cool rooms.


Export markets to Asia and Middle East must be expanded, Ausveg

Following the announcement of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement yesterday, Ausveg says that more needs to be done if the Australian vegetable industry is to continue to thrive.

Ausveg, the peak industry body for horticultural industry, says that export markets to Asia and the Middle East must be expanded, and that continued investment in research and development is key.

“The FTA with China is an important step for the Australian vegetable industry in its development as a powerhouse of international horticultural production,” said Ausveg CEO Richard Mulcahy.

“Many Asian and Middle Eastern countries, including China, have booming middle-class populations wanting to import produce. They are attracted to Australia’s fantastic reputation, and know our growers use the safest production methods to grow the best quality produce in the world.”

Mulcahy says that the industry must continue to invest heavily into R&D to increase production quality and transport capabilities as well as decrease costs and help growers break into export markets.

“Consumers want the best quality vegetables available and are willing to pay a premium price for Australian-grown vegetables,” he said.

Key outcomes of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement include:

• 7.5 to 30 per cent tariff on orange juice removed within 7 years, and tariffs of up to 30 per cent on other fruit juices removed within 4 years,
• 15 per cent tariff on natural honey, and the up to 25 per cent tariff on honey-related products removed within 5 years,
• 15 per cent tariff on pasta removed within 4 years,
• 8 to 10 per cent tariff on chocolate removed within 4 years,
• 15 to 25 per cent tariff on canned tomatoes, peaches, pears and apricots removed within 4 years,
• 15 to 20 per cent tariff on biscuits and cakes removed within 4 years, and
• 20 per cent tariff on soft drinks removed within 4 years.


Victorian food industry urges government to buy local

Representatives from the Victorian food industry have bolstered their efforts to lobby the government to purchase locally grown and manufactured food for government run institutions.

In the lead up to the Victorian state election, the Pro-Local Supply Working Group (whose members include the Australian Food & Grocery Council (AFGC), AUSVEG, SPC, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) and Australian Made amongst others) have developed a proposal that urges members of parliament to put locally sourced food on the agenda known as the Full Value for Victorian Food Procurement Policy.

Together with industry backing, the campaign has received significant support from the community with thousands pledging their support via an online petition at www.demandlocalsupply.com.au .

The proposed policy states that rather than purchasing the cheapest food available, decision makers will need to assess suppliers based on five selection criteria that includes: quality of service and value for money, food safety and quality; ethical sourcing; sustainability of the environment; and benefits to the Australian economy.

“Our food is produced to the highest quality and standards to ensure that it’s clean, green and safe for our families. The government needs to consider the full social and economic value that purchasing locally grown produce injects into the Victorian economy,” said AUSVEG representative Andrew White.

“Buying the cheapest imported food for state-run facilities fails to take the value of these factors into consideration.”

SPC Managing Director, Peter Kelly, said that the policy is simply about supporting the Australian industry.

“Sourcing from local supply is about all Aussie suppliers getting a fair go for these Government contracts. That’s all we’re asking for.”


Coles “fresh apple” claims misleading

Coles is in “fresh” trouble over pink lady apples that were picked in April, but advertised as “Spring fruit”.

A complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Board over a “Feed Your Family Better” advertisement, where Curtis Stone makes reference to the Tasmanian grown apples being fresh at Coles right now and says “feed your family better, fresher, with spring fruit and veg from Coles…”

The complaint to the Board said “This is wrong and not possible, I live in Tassie and my apple tree is dormant! These apples would have been in storage for MONTHS, they are not fresh.”

Coles decided not to re-publish or re-broadcast the particular advertisement, but argued the advertisement is not misleading or in breach of the AANA Food and Beverages Code.

Despite being harvested in April, Coles maintains that the apples were fresh.

The apples were placed in a controlled low temperature and reduced oxygen (not frozen) environment, which the supermarket said preserves their freshness.

In its response to the complaint, Coles said it “considers apples can remain fresh, even if placed in cold storage. ‘Freshness’ is determined with regard to the quality of the produce, not whether it has been stored or not
“Coles’ view that produce can remain “fresh” despite storage is consistent with the Macquarie Dictionary, which defines ‘fresh’ as retaining the original properties unimpaired; not deteriorated; not canned or frozen; not preserved by pickling, salting, drying, etc”

The supermarket cited its decision to place the fruit in cold storage facilities as a way to avoid sourcing apples from outside Australia to fulfil demand and “support local growers by only selling in Coles stores Australian apples grown by local growers.”

But it was not the use of the word “fresh” that got Coles into trouble this time, rather, the mention of “Spring fruit”

The board considered “it is common practice for food bought in its natural state to be described as fresh and that the use of the word ‘fresh’ in relation to apples is not of itself misleading or designed to be misleading.”

The Board said “in the current advertisement there is a reference to ‘Spring’ fruit and considered that these additional references to Spring change the context of the word ‘fresh’ to imply that the advertised apples are Spring fruit and have been freshly picked during the Spring season ready for immediate sale.

“The Advertiser’s response that apples are generally harvested in Australia during autumn and considered that the average consumer would be used to seeing apples available in supermarkets all year round and may not be aware of this fact.

“The Board considered that the likely interpretation of the advertisement by the average consumer would be that the Tasmanian apples being promoted as fresh this Spring would have been freshly picked in recent weeks and not over 3 months ago.”

In September, Coles was banned from advertising that its bread was made, or baked on the day that it’s sold for three years, following an ACCC investigation.

The federal court ruled in June that the supermarket misled shoppers by claiming that its bread, together with a range of other baked goods were “freshly baked” or “Baked Fresh” when it had actually been par baked months earlier in factories overseas.


Strong demand for seasonal foods

A study has found the majority of consumers consider seasonal food to be tastier, more cost effective and convenient to purchase than non-seasonal food.

The Good Business Sense National Eating Habits Study 2014 involved 800 participants in NSW, VIC, QLD and WA (the sample of which was representative of the age and population distributions in Australia), and also involved input from a number of expert nutritionists, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, and food companies.

Key findings from the Good Business Sense National Eating Habits 2014 study include:

  • 76 percent of Australian shoppers consider seasonal food to be tastier than non-seasonal food
  • 69 percent of Australian shoppers agreed that seasonal foods were more cost effective
  • 55 percent of Australian shoppers thought seasonal foods were more convenient to purchase than non-seasonal food
  • Only 26 percent of Australian shoppers thought that seasonal food was better for the economy
  • 45 percent of Australian shoppers would not pay extra for seasonal food
  • 41 percent of Australian shoppers would pay up to 25 percent more for seasonal food
  • 42 percent of Australian shoppers think there is a suitable range of organic and seasonal food on the current market, 33 percent think there is not enough
  • 33 percent of Australian shoppers do not consider there to be enough seasonal or organic food on the market
  • 62 percent of Australian shoppers believe that markets have a good range of seasonal food, with 54 percent believing that Woolworths and 50 percent for Coles have a good range. Thomas Dux only rated 15 percent and IGA 17 percent
  • Woolworths was the most popular response for stocking a good range of seasonal food amongst the youngest age group 18-20, with 75 percent compared to the overall average of 54 percent
  • 66 percent of Australian shoppers said “no” to the belief that seasonal food needs to be organic to have seasonal benefits, while 34 percent said “yes”
  • Individuals place less emphasis on organically grown seasonal food as their age increases
  • ‘Seasonal food fills 50 percent of my shopping basket’ was found to be the most popular answer among Australian shoppers
  • 79 percent of Australian shoppers prefer seasonal food over non-seasonal food
  • 27 percent of those earning under $27K have no preference for seasonal food
  • The study also measured consumption patterns of pre-packaged foods finding that yoghurt was the most purchased at 70 percent, frozen foods were at 54 percent and instant noodles 39 percent
  • 62 percent of Australian shoppers said that artificial flavours in pre-packaged foods was the top reason for not purchasing them
  • 57 percent of Australian shoppers said nutritional labels were the most attractive packaging feature when buying a product for the first time
  • When it came to food labelling, “Easy to read and understand” got 45 percent of Australian shoppers, 32 percent for “size”, and 32 percent for “recipe ideas”
  • “Texture” of labels and packaging only received 14 percent, while “smell” and “illustrations” were each at 17 percent
  • Comments on packaging and labelling revealed: price, visibility of contents, and the origin of ingredients were attractive features

Good Business Sense founder and Managing Director Anne Roze said, “We found that consumers are not educated enough to understand that seasonal food could be better for the economy and environment. This offers huge potential from an educational perspective, with only around 25% of respondents currently recognising all the benefits of eating seasonably.”


Price of food and non-alcoholic beverages grows

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has revealed that over the September quarter, the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages has risen by 1.2 percent.

The ABS released the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures quarterly changes in the price of a ‘basket’ of goods and services.

Out of the 11 groups measured, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group experienced the most growth.

The CPI said the main contributor to the rise in the group for the September quarter 2014 was fruit (+14.7 percent). The rise was partially offset by a fall in bread (-3.0 percent).

Over the twelve months to the September quarter 2014, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group rose 3.5 percent. The main contributors to the rise were fruit (+19.2 percent), vegetables (+10.0 percent), restaurant meals (+2.2 percent) and takeaway and fast foods (+1.9 percent). The rise was partially offset by a fall in breakfast cereals (-6.0 percent).

In seasonally adjusted terms, the food and non-alcoholic beverages group rose 0.9 percent in the September quarter 2014. The main contributor to the rise was fruit (+9.3 percent).


Simplot at loggerheads with unions as protests continue

The future of Simplot’s Devonport plant again seems uncertain, with staff planning industrial action for later this week.

Negotiations between the manufacturer and unions have failed to bear any fruit, and industrial bans have commenced at the Tasmanian facility with further action planned at the NSW factory.

The ABC reports that unions are calling for a 12 percent pay rise over three years, while Simplot is offering four percent.

The company says it needs to restore competitiveness before it can consider such significant pay rises, referring to the industrial action as “reckless”.

Devonport workers will strike for four hours on Friday and Bathurst workers are planning a month of rolling overtime bans starting Thursday.

Late last month, managing director Terry O’Brien said the industrial action would have a significant impact on operations.

“The potential threat of industrial action has come at a time when harvesting is at its peak,” he told ABC News.

“We believe Simplot has proposed a very fair and reasonable offer for our employees considering the economic climate and industry challenges."

Simplot last year warned its employees that the Bathurst and Devonport facilities were under threat of closure, with the competitive industry and high Australian dollar rendering them uncompetitive.

"If insufficient opportunities are identified, we will be forced to close our Bathurst plant after the next corn season. Our Devonport plant will be required to produce a five year improvement plan with satisfactory outcomes or face the prospect of a longer term (three to five year) closure," O’Brien said at the time.

Just a few months after this announcement, it was confirmed the Devonport plant would remain open for the next three years, allowing it to fulfil new contracts made with both Coles and Woolworths.

The company did however state that the plant will need to make significant savings or it will potentially face closure by 2019.

AUSVEG backs VFF’s calls for stronger policing of country of origin labelling

AUSVEG has backed comments from the Victorian Farmers Federation which criticise authorities over their failure to enforce Country of Origin Labelling breaches.

In an interview with The Weekly Times earlier this month, president of the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), Peter Tuohey said that not a single Victorian business has received a fine for breaching Country of Origin Labelling laws.

AUSVEG spokesperson, Michael Bodnarcuk said that the industry body is concerned by the “flagrant disregard” by some fresh food retailers in Victoria with relation to the implementation of Country of Origin Labelling laws.

“These laws were introduced to protect consumers and their ability to decide on the origin of the product that they will consume,” he said.

“Studies have shown that the majority of Australians would prefer to buy locally grown fruit and vegetables and we believe that consumers are being robbed of this ability through improper labelling practices.”

Bodnarcuk said that a strong regulatory framework and proper policing of relevant laws was vital to ensuring that customers know where their food is coming from, and for overall health of the Australian fresh food industry.

“The enforcement of Country of Origin Labelling laws needs to be strong enough to prevent produce of dubious origin being brought in to Australia with ambiguous labelling,” he said. 

In July last year, supermarket giant Coles paid six infringement notices totalling $61,200 for allegedly misleading representations about the country of origin of fresh produce in five stores.

The stores are located across Queensland, NSW, Western Australia and the ACT and the infringement notices refer to claims made between March 2013 and May 2013.


Fair Work to facilitate talks between Simplot and AMWU

The Fair Work Commission will facilitate talks between vegetable processor Simplot, and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU).

Vegetable processing workers at Simplot’s Tasmanian and NSW plants voted in favour of industrial action over the company’s pay offer last month as they believed that the company’s pay offer would remove conditions for casual workers.

AMWU said that while it would be a last resort, it is still prepared to take industrial action which could include strikes and overtime bans.

Managing director of Simplot, Terry O’Brien told ABC News that he was hopeful that the talks will help resolve the issue, and in turn avoid any industrial action as it would impact heavily on the operations of the processor as harvesting is currently at its peak.

Last year, Simplot’s Devonport and Bathurst plants were under threat of closure due to a very competitive industry and unsustainably high costs.

The company was then given a lifeline in the form of new contracts with Supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths over the next three years.


Grocery code needs to be enforceable: ACCC

The ACCC has called for issues around enforceability and coverage to be addressed in the proposed grocery code of conduct, before a conclusion is reached.

Addressing the Australian Food and Grocery Council’s Industry Leaders Forum in Canberra, ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said a code of conduct that provides clear rights and legally enforceable norms of conduct would be of considerable assistance to food and grocery industry participants.

“However, many of the protections of the proposed Code are qualified and retailers and suppliers are able to agree to ‘contract out’ of Code provisions,” Sims said.

“This raises an issue of whether the Code will address the problems which industry has identified if norms of conduct in the Code are able to be traded away, rather than always enforceable.”

Sims also backed recent comments made by the Chairman of the Productivity Commission that Australia should stick with its successful strategy of favouring the many over the few by focusing on removing barriers to competition generally, rather than pursuing policies that favour particular sectors.

“I agree with him completely. So, it seems, does the Harper Panel review.

“We strongly agree with the review panel that there is a need to reinvigorate Australia’s competition policy, and ensure that it evolves.”

Sims welcomed the Harper Competition Review Draft Report and discussed proposed areas of microeconomic reform where the food and grocery sector stands to benefit.

“On road infrastructure provision and pricing, we support the panel’s recommendation on introducing cost-reflective road pricing linked to road construction, maintenance and safety,” Mr Sims said.

“Importantly, more effective road user charges can be offset by lower fuel taxes which currently account for one quarter of fuel prices.

“The ACCC also welcomes the draft recommendations to deepen competition in liner and coastal shipping services. This will also reduce your production costs."

In discussing proposed microeconomic reform,  Sims rejected the notion all the low hanging fruit has been picked, and that all the really important reforms have been made.

“The reforms to shipping are low hanging fruit, and can be implemented quickly. And the road reforms are fundamental to our economy.”

Sims also welcomed the review panel’s consideration of Australia’s competition laws.

“In doing so, they have clearly had regard to established international approaches to setting the appropriate boundaries of such laws.  Australia’s competition laws are behind international best practice in important respects.”

Sims broadly welcomed the Panel’s recommendation on “concerted practices”, the misuse of market power, and in relation to merger assessment.

In reporting on the ACCC’s recent compliance and enforcement activities, Mr Sims listed outcomes in area of credence claims including beer, pork, honey and free-range eggs.

“When making promotional claims about food or grocery products, the ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’ and ‘how’ must be accurate.”


Apple and Strawberry Fruit Pieces

Product name: Apple and Strawberry Fruit Pieces

Product manufacturer: J.C.'s Quality Foods

Ingredients: Fruit (98.7%) [Concentrated Apple Puree (44%), Concentrated Apple Juice (32%), Strawberry Puree (22%), Concentrated Aronia Juice (0.7%)], Citrus Fibre, Gelling Agent (Pectin), Natural Flavour.

Shelf life: 12 months

Packaging: 25g/unit, 18 units/CTN

Product manager: Louis Cannatelli

Brand website: https://www.jcsqualityfoods.com.au

What the company says
Another innovative product is J.C.’s new Apple & Strawberry Fruit Pieces pack, which is a 100 percent fruit derived ‘confectionery’ snack with no added sugar.

The bite-sized jelly-like pieces are free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or sulphites and come in an attractive 25g pack.

Following on from our very successful five Snack Pack varieties that include the Original Delicious Energy Mix, Healthy Mix, Outback Mix and Jackaroo Mix, we are confident we have another winning formula with these two new products.


Woolworths extends price cuts to produce

After announcing its cut the price of Homebrand bread to 85c, supermarket giant Woolworths has reduced the cost of some of meat and vegetable products.

From today, consumers can purchase a large tray of beef mince for $5 per kilo; carrots for $1.15 per kilogram bag (in NSW, QLD and VIC); and brown onions for $1 per kilo bag (in WA, SA, NT and TAS).

Over recent weeks Woolworths has announced a range of other price reductions, with Devondale Longlife two litre milk retailing for $2; Sanitarium UpnGo 12 pack costing just $11.99; and Homebrand white bread has been cut to just 85c.

Woolworths managing director of Australian Supermarkets and Petrol, Tjeerd Jegen, said, “Woolworths has listened to our customers and cut ongoing prices on products they buy the most. These are staples that families put on the table every day and these cuts can really help with the budget.

“This is just the start of a range of savings we know will make a real difference to our customers,” he said.

Woolworths has confirmed its funding the price cuts to its Homebrand white bread but was unable to clarify how the other cuts will be funded.

Simplot workers vote in favour of industrial action over pay deal

Vegetable processing workers at Simplot’s Tasmanian and NSW plants have voted in favour of industrial action over the company’s pay offer.

The Manufacturing Workers Union said that results of a workplace ballot indicated that 70 percent of respondents were in favour of industrial action as they believed that Simplot’s pay offer would remove conditions for casual workers.

John Short from the Manufacturers Workers Union said that the union doesn’t want to take industrial action and are encouraging Simplot to “sit down and negotiate an agreement”.

"You know, we don't want to take industrial action but obviously now the workers have got the right to," Short told ABC News.

"We'll just talk to our members and say 'you have the right to take it, do you want to take it? When do you want to take it and what type of action do you want to take?' "he said.

"Could be a couple of weeks away…"

Managing director of Simplot, Terry O’Brien said that the pay deal offered to workers is fair, and that industrial action would impact heavily on operations.

“The potential threat of industrial action has come at a time when harvesting is at its peak,” O’Brien told ABC News.

“We believe Simplot has proposed a very fair and reasonable offer for our employees considering the economic climate and industry challenges."


Harris Farm sells imperfect fruit and veg

Harris Farm buying less than perfect fruits and vegetables from farmers that would otherwise go to waste, and selling it for half price.

The “Imperfect Picks” range aims at using the 25 percent of a harvested crop which goes to waste, mostly because it doesn’t meet strict retail quality specifications.

“We want to start a conversation about Australia’s national food waste crisis and its impact on Australian farmers. It is our hope that through this campaign, we encourage Australians and the big supermarkets to rethink what’s important when buying fruit and vegetables,” Harris Farm Markets’ Tristan Harris said.

In order to create the range, Harris Farm Markets changed their specifications on selected group product lines so that their buying team are making their decisions on the freshness of the new product range and how it tastes, not by how it looks.

John Lloyd, CEO of Horticulture Australia said “when you’ve got such a high proportion of product that’s not acceptable for the supermarket shelves, any company who takes some action to alleviate that and tries to change that situation should be commended.”

The Imperfect Picks range will initially include Packham pears, Navel oranges, Pink Lady apples, bananas, carrots, potatoes, swedes and zucchinis.


WA addresses labour shortage

A new two-year project to ease labour and skills shortages affecting the Western Australian agrifood sector has been announced.

Agriculture and Food Minister Ken Baston said the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Western Australia (CCIWA), would work together on the Agrifood Labour Initiative.

The campaign will try to overcome the shortage by increasing awareness of careers in agriculture, including livestock, horticulture, dairy, grains and food manufacturing.

“Experience shows that businesses in these sectors rely heavily on a transient workforce,” Baston said.

“WA’s agriculture and food sector has the opportunity to harness growth in demand from export markets. Better access to skilled and semi-skilled labour will be critical in taking advantage of these opportunities.

“The Agrifood Labour Initiative will co-ordinate actions to improve access to suitable labour through workforce development, training and migration strategies.”

2014 Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation (RIRDC) Western Australian Rural Woman of the Year, Jackie Jarvis, will lead the initiative as the labour and skills consultant.

Jackie Jarvis told ABC Rural that WA producers need to think outside the square and make working in agriculture more attractive, particularly to young people in metropolitan regions.

“It's about working with the different agri-food alliance members, so all the major industry groups across WA agriculture are represented. It's about sharing ideas and finding real solutions,” she said.

“For some industries, it might be about school-based traineeships, so that we get kids trying jobs before they commit to a careers and we can get farms trying trainees for one or two days a week while they're at school.

“For other industries, it might be about skilled migration.

“There's a whole range of people out there. It's about tapping them on the shoulder and telling them about the opportunities in agriculture.”


Strawberry prices drop due to oversupply

Strawberries are selling for well below the cost of production due to an oversupply.

Recent rain in the major growing areas of southern Queensland has resulted in damaged strawberries being dumped onto the market, right at the season’s peak production time, ABC Rural reports.

Jennifer Rowling, industry development officer with the Qld Strawberry Industry, said the combination of events means there's a lot of cheap strawberries around.

“Prices have been fairly stable because there has been some bad weather and some growers lost a lot of fruit.

“But they seem to be getting rid of the fruit that was badly affected.

Rowling said some growers lost between 50 and 90 per cent of their product.

“One grower lost 25,000 trays of strawberries which is a massive loss.”

Gavin Scurr, managing director of Piñata farms, which grows strawberries on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and Granite Belt said the costs of production on the farm is about $1.80 per punnet.

“Early in the season, when there's not much product around, we get a lot more than $1.80 but, at the moment, when they're selling for $1.25 that's well below the cost of production.”

Scurr said the retailers selling cheap strawberries aren't making any money either.

“Coles and Woolworths are paying similar to that sort of money… selling them at cost… so they're really trying to move this flush through so that we can get the price back up again.”


US Golden State Foods purchases Snap Fresh for undisclosed figure

New Zealand fresh produce company Snap Fresh has been purchased by US fast food supplier, Golden State Foods.

Golden State Foods, which is reported to be worth US$6 billion, is one of the world’s largest suppliers to the fast food industry.

Executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Golden State, Neil Cracknell said that the purchase of Snap Fresh will open up valuable growth opportunities and product development opportunity for the US company.

"We look forward to expanding our regional produce foodservice business into the fast-growing retail sector with such a strong and successful brand as Snap Fresh Foods," said Cracknell in a statement. 

"The addition of Snap Fresh provides great growth opportunities for GSF particularly in the retail salads segment, while providing new products and capabilities to our existing food service customers in the region."

Stuff.co.nz reports that Snap Fresh Foods has today changed its name to Vida Fresh.

Snap Fresh Foods was founded in Auckland in 1980 and sells a variety of salad and vegetable mixes along with dressings and condiments. The company operates two processing facilities and employs 150 staff.